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Hackney Council tackles extortionate rent hikes and rogue landlords

PUBLISHED: 12:09 18 March 2015 | UPDATED: 13:44 18 March 2015

Cllr Glanville at the property in Chatsworth Road

Cllr Glanville at the property in Chatsworth Road

Archant

Hackney Council is calling on the next government to help struggling families by reforming the private-rented housing system to rein in the likes of rogue landlords, 50 per cent rent hikes and extortionate letting agency fees.

The ten recommendations are:

1. Inflation-capped rent rises to ensure greater security for tenants, particularly for families with children

2. Longer tenancies - for years, not months

3. Stopping retaliatory evictions, by changing the law over notices seeking possession for assured shorthold tenancies

4. Fast-tracking licensing schemes, by cutting red tape for councils setting up licensing schemes to ensure high quality standards of accommodation and service

5. Exploring further incentives for responsible landlords, including the choice for tenants for direct payments of housing benefit to accredited landlords who offer longer tenancies and stable rents

6. Creating a national quality kitemark, so tenants can identify good quality accommodation

7. Establishing a public register of landlords and properties, to enable tenants to find out directly who they pay rent to and enable the Council to provide information and support to landlords who need it

8. A national ban on rogue landlords, as with disgraced company directors, plus bigger fines and more consistent sentencing

9. Costs transparency: making it mandatory for landlords to publish related costs of a property, such as utility bills, and for lettings agents to explain their fees

10. Improving safety: mandatory installation of fire and carbon monoxide detectors and mandatory annual electrical tests

The authority has laid out a 10-point plan including inflation-capped rent rises and longer tenancies which they believe would benefit the country’s nine million private renters.

The move follows a review by the Living in Hackney Scrutiny Commission which heard evidence collected from tenants by local private renters campaign group Digs.

Since 2011, private rents in Hackney have risen by 21 percent, outstripping inflation, and the annual income needed to afford the average rent for a one bedroom home in the borough is £42,937, meaning many families are being forced out of the borough.

The council has also launched a poster campaign to promote the legal rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords, and has launched an online Change.org petition for residents to sign which will be presented to the next government later in the year.

Cllr Philip Glanville, cabinet member for housing, said: “A generation of people in this country are being priced out of the property market, and forced into private rented accommodation.

“Children and families are being uprooted every six months by insecure tenancies and beyond-inflation rent increases.

“There is now a clearer case than ever for fundamental reform of the private rented sector, to allow individuals and families to make secure homes for themselves.”

Last month Cllr Glanville accompanied council officers investigating conditions in a privately-rented windowless studio flat off Chatsworth Road, which was being rented out at £900 a month despite breaching minimum space standards and electrical and fire safety regulations.

One anonymous case study from Hackney Wick said a letting agent re-valued their a home with a 50 percent rent increase.

“I want to feel like I know that I can pay my rent in three months’ time because it won’t be 50 percent higher than it is at the moment,” they said.

“Really simple things could be to make landlords offer tenants long tenancies with limits on how much rent can rise.”

A teacher from Clapton added: “At the moment we spend 50 percent of our income on rent.

“We do not have central heating and electric heaters that have been installed consume electricity ravenously whilst heating ineffectively – we plan to stay here until the summer, when I will leave my teaching job and then move somewhere cheaper.”

Click here to view the petition.


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